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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Baseball Day in New York

There was no orange button on your new blue cap because you had to earn it Croix de Flushing Meadow style. And despite six hours of service time, you came up short. Tsk.

Of course, I get nothing for manipulating television and radio volume controls from 1:20 until 11:00 except maybe a touch of the carpal tunnel and a relatively pleasing case of the warm-and-drys. Though I wouldn't compare it to your battle with the elements, the Giants or the kind of common sense that one is required to check at Gate A for day-day-night doubleheaders, it was a long stretch from my particular catbird seat. Warm and dry, but long.

Nobody knows how to do rain delays anymore. Fox showed an Angels-Indians game that I guess was the only other one they had going. The Braves and Diamondbacks were playing a day-nighter in Atlanta, but the afternoon part was the makeup so I'm guessing it wasn't televised. I don't think we've ever had a day-night doubleheader of our very own (not counting those Skank-induced frauds that we half-hosted in 2000 and 2003). The one you went to last year was as close as I can recall, a 4:00 start and then an invitation to stick around for the 8:00 show. Seeing as how Fanny Pack Nation traditionally makes itself so scarce, I thought day-nighting it at the Ted was a little showy. Unless they were expecting a huge crowd for Fanny Pack Night and had to fight 'em off with a switch.

I listened intermittently on XM to the Diamondbacks defeat the Braves in the daytime, getting myself squarely behind the National League's new premiere closer Jorge Julio. (Didn't we used to have him?) And because it was there, I watched a bit of the Indians unraveling my nominal favorite American League team, though I have to admit I haven't kept up all that closely on Angel affairs of late. Apparently, “we” are not very good this year.

As pleasant at it is to have a baseball game from Cleveland on TV and as necessary as it is to hear one from Atlanta, I would have ditched both for wall-to-wall Rain Delay Theater. The FAN seemed fertummelt by the fact that the game would not start as scheduled and always acts fermisht when the arrival of the first pitch is unknown. How many Mets games have they broadcast since July 1, 1987? It's rained at least a few times.

Wouldn't you think an all-sports station (save for the Saturday mornings when Richard Neer hijacks the format for his crusade against mental health; he campaigned for Glavine to go in the first game so he could get “an extra four hours of rest” before his next start) could line up interviews with interesting baseball people while they're all standing around a baseball stadium with nothing to do? Instead of Ed Coleman fretting that the tarp is on the field and the skies don't look promising and we have no idea when we're going to get underway, can't he grab a beat reporter or a columnist, even one from San Francisco? How about getting somebody from Fox on? I don't want to listen to Lou Piniella do the game, but I wouldn't mind 10 minutes of Lou Piniella on The Game. Surely there's an itinerant scout floating around who could tell us something flattering (or otherwise) about Lastings Milledge.

No, all we learned of a substantive nature on the FAN before it was thrown to Steve Somers in the studio (where I could be assured of learning nothing at all) was Tom McCarthy used to help roll tarps for the ballclub in Trenton where he was assistant GM. Really? I didn't know that. Ralph was famously a minor league GM before becoming a Mets voice for the ages, so maybe Tom's got the right career path in gear.

Around 3:30 I began to compose a full-froth rant about how Fox was obviously going to screw us out of our telecast, that they were going to issue a bland statement about the local market and the limited window and how we were already served by witnessing Los Angeles of Anaheim at Cleveland of Ohio and I checked SNY to see various bouts of sailing or gymnastics or lacrosse and began to get doubly mad that our very own network wasn't going to show our game either, that this was an outrage, that this was disgusting…

And then a Mets game magically appeared on Channel 5 and I calmed down. For 2-1/2 hours they had shown a sunny day in Cleveland and that very nifty Jacobs Field and suddenly it was dark and foreboding and Shea and I couldn't believe how much better it looked here than there. It really does matter who's playing.

Then the game took place and I couldn't do anything about that except turn the television sound down and listen to Howie Rose and Tom McCarthy describe the action five seconds before I could look at it. Time tunnel be damned, I'm not going to listen to Piniella when I can listen to Rose. And I'm never going to listen to Josh Lewin, whom I still haven't forgiven for larding up the ill-fated Brian Jordan II telecast in September 2001 by referring to the Mets as the New York Metaphors, carrying the weight of a nation on its shoulders.

Besides, Fox couldn't spell that “kid” catcher's name correctly in its graphics. I'd never heard of him until yesterday but I could see his uniform said he was “ALFONSO”. I later learned that the foulup was on the kid's back, not in the Chyron. Either the San Francisco Giants or this guy was the culprit. I choose the San Francisco Giants.

But only in this case. I wouldn't choose the San Francisco Giants in anything except a knife fight against the Braves, Phillies or Skanks. Loathsome bunch, and Bonds is the least of their loathsomeness. It's the team of the living dead over there. Is Steve Finley still in the league? Omar Vizquel isn't an Indian? Randy Winn isn't a Devil Ray? Ray Durham? Steve Kline? I don't care for any of these people now if I ever did before. Where do they play their home games…Alcatraz?

And yes, there is the issue of their zombie ex-Mets Vizcaino and Benitez. Viz lost his nickname privileges long ago. And Armando…yeesh. Just yeesh. Stephanie was devoting about 10% of her attention to the end of Game One, but when I pointed out who was closing for the visitors, she emitted a noise normally reserved for discovering that the yogurt in the back of the fridge has an expiration date of AUG 24 05.

I looked forward to a more “normal” second game, flipping over to SNY to hear Gary Cohen, but was surprised at how much he had begun to sound like Howie Rose. Hey! That IS Howie Rose! Gary apparently shared a bad appendix with Xavier Nady so zowie, it was Howie for 18+ innings yesterday.

I welcomed his presence (thought the Dolans would have forbid it considering he calls Islander games on one of their channels), but there was something Proustian about it. Hearing Howie coming from the TV jolted me back to his FSNY gig, a bit too much of which was spent describing bad baseball on either side of the Bobby Valentine era. Seeing the tableau of foreboding clouds and empty orange seats made me think I was watching a game from April 1996 or September 2003. A utility infielder in right? A four-A outfielder in center? A .205-hitting second baseman? Tom Glavine warming up in front of nobody? Is Art starting Joe DePastino behind the plate?

Got over that soon enough, but was a little taken aback when I realized that Howie, every bit the good broadcasting companion that Gary is for my money, has aged right before our ears. Maybe it's just an evergreen sense of fair play on his part that I've never quite embraced, but he's displaying curmudgeonly tendencies that are probably par for someone who's been on the New York baseball scene for the better part of thirty years. I've always considered him a card-carrying member of the New Breed and figured the NB wasn't as relentlessly judgmental as its predecessors.

In measured terms, however, Howie couldn't bash Barry enough, giving off the impression that “that's not how it was in my day.” Willie Mays was his day but it could have been Willie Keeler. It went beyond the reasonable and defendable assertion that the guy's a lousy cheater, et al; the vibe seemed more Dick Young than Howie Rose, and I thought Dick Young was long dead. Then again, Dick Young wasn't always wrong.

It was also interesting listening to Rose attempting to cajole Hernandez. It was good-natured Howiedom at its best, but Keith's such an odd duck that it wouldn't take, not even in the rain. Howie was teasing Keith about him not wanting to play both ends of a doubleheader. There was silence from Keith until Keith, his professionalism as a player somehow impugned 16 years since he last played, explained (you could almost hear him lacing up his spikes) that he wanted five hits out of every doubleheader. Howie was trying to keep it light. Keith couldn't believe somebody couldn't understand why you wouldn't want to get eight to ten at-bats in a single day.

Then Howie, easing into an anecdote about erstwhile Mex backup Dave Magadan, actually placed an event from Bud Harrelson's tenure on Davey Johnson's docket. Howie never makes those mistakes! By the middle of Game Two, we were all getting old.

TBS had the good news, for a while. The Diamondbacks were drilling the Braves. Then the Braves started mounting one of their infernal comebacks, the kind of rally they've been in the middle of since Mags was ducking flying lumber in St. Louis. While the Mets and Giants were literally stuck in the mud, I focused on cheering home the Turner Field visitors. I heard myself calling out “C'MON ERIC!” to Eric Byrnes, a Snake on whom I was wishing several forms of whacking three or four days earlier. The schedule can be a funny thing.

Arizona was withstanding the Atlanta assault; how did Damion Easley not do us in? Meanwhile, we trudged into a 19th inning. Stephanie had long abandoned the couch for her Saturday evening pastime of loading tracks onto the iPod Shuffle she gave me for my birthday. I've refused to learn how to do this since I'm not entirely convinced the audio cassette tape's day has passed; I'm not without curmudgeonly tendencies myself. As has become custom, she'll slip the earbuds on me when she finds a particular song she's sure will strike my fancy and I'll usually leave them on for an hour or two while listening to and watching other things (muuulti-tasking!).

By the bottom of the eleventh, she had gone upstairs and Lo Duca singled and Delgado doubled and Milledge pinch-ran (I also cried overmanaging…geniuses we are here) and as the bases got loaded, the song in my ears was Sultans of Swing, the Dire Straits tune to which Chris Woodward always strides toward the plate.

And who was striding toward the plate mid-song? Chris Woodward!

I love and hate stuff like this. I love the idea that a coincidence (there is no display on this iPod) could foreshadow a walkoff incident. I hate the idea of loving the idea because it never works as I would imagine. Except this time, Woodward lofts an inadequate fly to right and Milledge, resembling a late September callup amid anything but a pennant race — empty orange seats depress me so — dashed in a fashion nobody else available (certainly not Lo Duca) could have, slid smartly and scored. I was clapped a lot and yelled up the stairs, “Hey, I've got an iPod story for you!”

Then I switched back to TBS, rooted for Jorge Julio to strike out Todd Pratt and found myself not having completely wasted a Saturday. A half-game picked up on Philly. A game picked up on Atlanta. A better taste in my mouth to nod off to than seemed possible for most of the previous ten hours. And I was still warm and dry.

Though you are commended for logging unwarranted face time with Old Man Late Winter (a hardy soul who was supposed to be at his condo in Boca by now) and not docked for surrendering to self-preservation and the babysitter's retirement fund (I hear she started planning a trip to Bermuda when Armando walked the first two batters), one demerit for not completing your due diligence — I could have told you Giants @ Mets doubledips are, if not trouble, then almost never wholly satisfying. Hell, I already have.

Now, having staked the nominal historical high ground from the comfort of my couch, you must excuse me. I'm going to the ballet today.


5 comments to Baseball Day in New York

  • Anonymous

    “Where do they play their home games…Alcatraz?”
    Actually, The Team of the Living Dead has one of the nicest two ballparks in the majors (PNC being the other – I'm torn between which one of those two is the best, but they're both fabulous).

  • Anonymous

    i listened to the last few innings of the first game on the car radio, then made it home in time to watch the nightcap, groaning softly when it went into extra innings. but yes, dry is good.
    a long day of baseball — everyone, players, umps, broadcasters, fans would agree, i think.
    and with that soggy denouement, the first third of the season is in the books. mets are up 5.5 on the phils, 6 on the braves.
    33-21 translates into 99-63. without discussing possibilities beyond the regular season, i would take that record, even though i might be shortchanging the team.
    gotta go. the sunday matinee beckons.

  • Anonymous

    For a doubleheader played under such soggy conditions, only one error called and it was in the first game.
    Great defensive effort on both sides.

  • Anonymous

    Love 'em both. But PNC is wasted on the Pirates and the Giants should be confined to maximum security prison after purloining today's game.
    By my count, we should be 55-0.

  • Anonymous

    Not such a great effort today on the part of the Mets, in much better conditions. Milledge's heroics were rendered inadequate by twin game-costing errors. Ugh.